Remember to always give enough processing time to an autistic student. This means to warn them ahead of time that they have X amount of minutes left to finish whatever they are doing. Do it incrementally - you have 10 mins.; now you have 5 minutes. They don't look like they are listening but they are.
To change the present in appropriate behavior you need to redirect their attention, much like a toddler. Don't do it abruptly as they cannot process what you are saying or doing immediately.
Be patient, go slowly and don't be discouraged. This group of students has much to offer. They are very bright in some areas and will astound you with what they know.
Good luck this year!
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Find a way to get them involved in the process- for example time keeping. If the student has a job to focus on they may be less likely to be a distraction. It's hard sometimes to figure out what role to give students, but it can help to build that relationship because you are trusting them with a task... even if it is a simple one.
Without knowing the level of the students you're talking about (age, intellectual, social) in general, autistic students act out when they are stressed (same as the rest of us). They may be stressed by sensory overload or by a lack of understanding of what is coming. If the student cannot read, a visual schedule or object schedule should be in place. If the student can read, a personal written schedule that can be visually changed should suffice. (One student I worked with was fine with a typed schedule that I would cross out and change as needed.) For sensory needs, you'll need input from your OT. It's pretty routine for students with autism to have an OT evaluation, which should include sensory input. Also consider providing breaks as needed. This isn't laziness. This is a real physical need for these kids.
I agree with the suggestions given. One thing I would like to add is that we all think of our students as people first. What I mean by that is that in this case they are students with autism. That opens the door to seeing the individual strengths and challenges of each student. It emphasizes they are each a person first and then are musical, athletic, quiet, passionate about cooking and on and on. So, I try to say students with autism to keep the person first.
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